The Pandora Report

Highlights include lyssavirus, a treatment for Ebola, predicting the next pandemic, stressing out bacteria, weapons inspection in Syria, and Flu’s grappling hooks. Happy Friday!

Experts Sound Global Alert Over Deadly Bat Virus

Lyssavirus is a close cousin of rabies, both in terms of presentation and its potentially years-long incubation period. The virus does not transmit well person-to-person, though the possibility of such was enough to prompt a terse warning from the doctors involved is this case – “In short, people should stay away from bats.”

The Jakarta Globe – “Experts on infectious diseases on Thursday warned people to stay away from bats worldwide after the recent death of an eight-year-old boy bitten in Australia. The boy last month became the third person in the country to die of Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), for which there is no effective treatment…Other lyssavirus strains circulate in bats in the United States and Europe and the experts said their warning applies to wherever bat or flying fox populations exist.”

Chemical Compounds That Halt Virus Replication Identified

It has been literal months since we’ve mentioned Ebola, which is actually pretty good news. What better way to break the radio silence than with news of a potential treatment?

Science Daily – “In this study, researchers identified a new chemical class of compounds that effectively blocked genetically diverse viruses from replicating by limiting RNA production by the virus in cell culture. These indoline alkaloid-type compounds inhibited a number of viruses from replicating, including Ebola…’Because the production of viral RNA is the first step in successful replication, it appears that we have uncovered an Achilles heel to halt virus replication,’ said [lead author] Filone. ‘These compounds represent probes of a central virus function and a potential drug target for the development of effective broad-spectrum antivirals for a range of human pathogens.'”

UCLA-led team predicts China, Egypt could be new-flu hot spots

The team cross-referenced areas with high incidences of  H3N2 (in humans) and H5N1 (in birds) respectively, while also looking for large numbers of swine (which can be infected with both strains from both hosts, and can therefore reassort the virus before passing it along). The results? China and Egypt.

Los Angeles Times – “UCLA postdoctoral researcher Trevon Fuller and colleagues published their work online on March 13 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases…Fuller and his colleagues used new techniques to assess conditions in a number of places to see how likely a reassortment event might be. While a new pandemic could possibly emerge from a number of combinations of flu strains, the team focused on reassortment between human H3N2, a version of which was prevalent in the U.S. this flu season; and avian H5N1, a widespread bird fluthat has been rare in humans so far but has proven deadly among the hundreds of people it has infected.”

Bacterial byproduct offers route to avoiding antibiotic resistance

Researchers at Princeton are using bacteria’s natural susceptibility to oxidative stress to develop safer antibiotics. Contrary to popular  belief, “oxidative stress” does not refer to one’s state of being upon entering the Metro, but rather is a bacterial state induced as a result of increasing bacterial production of reactive oxygen species [ROS].

Princeton News – “In a recent paper in the journal Nature Biotechnology, first author Mark Brynildsen, a Princeton assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, reported that scientists can force bacteria to increase their production of a class of molecules called reactive oxygen species, which can either kill the bacteria outright or make them far more vulnerable to antibiotics. Bacteria normally produce reactive oxygen species during growth. Small amounts don’t hurt them because of certain protective enzymes within the bacteria, but too much of the substances can lead to “oxidative stress.” The researchers decided this weakness could be exploited.”

Syria’s chaos complicates task for chemical weapons investigators

Syria continues apace, with rebels and the Assad regime swapping allegations regarding chemical weapons use. Now it’s just the simple matter of getting an inspections team into the middle of a civil war to attempt to collect biological samples. Weapons inspecting – not for the weak.

NBC News – “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he had agreed to conduct an investigation of allegations of an attack in the northern city of Aleppo. The government and the opposition have accused each other of carrying out that attack on Tuesday…Ralf Trapp, a German who works on disarmament and non-proliferation issues, specializing on chemical and biological weapons, said…a big question will be how soon the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – of which Trapp is a former official — can get a team into Aleppo. He said the team would have to be large and varied, with security officers and medical officers as well as inspectors. But each day lost will influence the speed with which the investigation can be concluded, he said, because as more time elapses before biological sampling occurs, more sophisticated DNA and other toxicological testing is required.”

A viral grappling hook: Flu virus attacks like a pirate boarding party

Included in part because there was a pirate simile in the title. Leave me alone, it’s Friday. But also, read the article, because it’s an interesting presentation of flu’s mechanism,  and because it used a pirate simile in the title. – “When the virus encounters a cell—in your lung, for example—that cell may engulf the virus inside an internal membrane called an endosome. To escape that bubble, the virus fuses its membrane with the endosome’s, opening a window into the cell’s interior…To fuse the two membranes, the virus carries a protein called hemagglutinin (the “H” in H1N1). Triggered by the acidic environment of an endosome, that protein will extend from the viral membrane and attach, like a grappling hook, to the endosome’s membrane. When enough hooks are set, they draw the membranes together until they fuse.”


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